Wellington Centennial Exhibition Cyclone

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Wellington Centennial Exhibition Cyclone

Post by Sora » Sun Jul 08, 2012 7:17 am

I have been aware of this little-known coaster for some time now, but since RCDB said it was a copy of Steel Stella at Clacton, I never thought to look it up. However, during an idle moment at work the other day I googled the ride for pictures, and what I discovered was very interesting.

In November 1939 the Wellington Centennial Exhibition opened in Rongotai, Wellington, New Zealand. This was a six month celebration of the signing of the treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and the subsequent progress since then -- a "Century of Progress Exhibtion" if you like. Part of the exhibition was an amusement area called Playland, built on the sports fields of of Rongotai College, a boys' high school which is still open today. The contract for providing amusements was awarded to a company clumsily called "Double Grip Tubular Steel Amusement Devices Company", which was a subgroup of a British scaffolding company. They had nine star attractions, including a Jack and Jill slide, dodgems, a speedway (presumably go-karts) and the Cyclone coaster. Like Traver's Jazz Railway and Sesquicentennial Cyclone, the Wellington Cyclone coaster was a hybrid: a wooden track with a completely steel superstructure. RCDB lists Charles Paige and Lot Morgan as the designers. The Cyclone was the most successful ride: it brought in over 30% of the total revenue from all the star attractions, and Playland had more visitors than the main exhibition itself. As a whole, the exhibition saw 2.6 million visitors in the six months it was open. This is a staggering figure -- today there are approximately 4 million people in the entire country, so to get half that figure 72 years ago, and in the middle of World War 2, is quite an achievement. My uncle, who was 12 at the time, says it was the talk of the country, and recalls those who were able to go telling wonderful stories about their experiences at the exhibition. It was THE place to visit!

There are very few photos of the Cyclone. One shows a train in action, one shows the lifthill, station, and brakes, and there is a short video showing the ride under construction and then complete. There is no footage of the trains running. The idea of a rollercoaster built on a school sports field piqued my curiosity, and after doing a rough sketch of the layout, I set to work recreating it in RCT.

The coaster was about 45 feet high, with a 5 foot drop off the lift and a large 90 degree right hand bend before the first drop. There were three large camel backs, then a 10 foot bunny hop before rising into the safety block and turnaround which was about 20 feet high. The drop out of the turnaround was on the diagonal, and next came three 15 foot bunny hills before the train lined up to run parallel to the outbound track. Finally came three more 10 foot hills and a double down before rising into the brakes. There were two brake runs, at 90 degrees to one another, both gently sloping. The station was on a slope, and a 180 degree turn to ground level of rollout track took the train directly onto the lift. For me the points of interest are the low airtime hill right before the turnaround and the relatively low height of the turnaround itself. The recreation supports my suspicion that the outward leg was relatively slow, and the return leg was fast with furious airtime on all the hills. The Cyclone ran three PTC style trains simultaneously, with three six-person cars per train. The double brake runs and blocking system of RCT2 accurately simulate this operation. The mid-course safety block is set high enough not to interfere with the trains -- it is for visual accuracy only.

The recreation required a few concessions: first the camel backs couldn't be exactly the height I wanted, due to the limits of RCT track pieces and the desire to preserve the overall structural integrity of the ride. Creating three diagonal hills after the turnaround was going to take up too much space, so instead they are parallel to the outbound leg, and I adjusted the exit of the turnaround accordingly. Finally, the lift is five feet too high, and I've added in a five foot drop between the brake runs to simulate their gentle slope. An accurate representation of the brake runs is impossible in RCT. I have yet to decide on a design for the station. The original wasn't terribly inspiring, considering the art deco environment of the rest of the exhibition. I may look to Steve Franks' art deco stations for inspiration. Overall I am very pleased with the recreation of this obscure but fun coaster. The test results indicate nearly seven seconds of airtime, and with three trains on the system at once it chomps through a queue like nobody's business. I had a four minute queue on the test bench and not a single peep complained about the waiting time. Some antil rollbacks have been added -- these do not affect the speed of the trains but prevent crashes in the event of wheel bearing failures, which occur from time to time in RCT. I won't release the track yet as I want to get the station and operation timings sorted first. In the meantime, here's some screenshots:

The final camel hump and the airtime hill into the safety block:


The safety block and turnaround:


A preview with test results (6.12/8.40/4.92) :


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